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DEI Audit Toolkit for Digital Collections and Finding Aids

DEI Audit Toolkit for Digital Collections and Finding Aids


This DEI Audit Toolkit is a guide that walks through the steps and practices we have performed as we pilot a process to audit our digital collections and finding aids. If you are library and archive practitioner interested in conducting a DEI audit but not sure about how to begin this journey, please consider this toolbox as a starting point for identifying tools that could work for you or that you can tailor to your institution's needs.

This DEI Audit Toolkit includes: a framework, methods and methodologies for creating and implementing a rubric, processes and tools (i.e., checklists, workflows, spreadsheets),  and resources (e.g., use cases, thesauri, relevant readings). The current drafts of the DEI Audit Checklist and the DEI Manual Audit Workflow can be found under the Documenting & Connecting tab.

A DEI Audit is being conducted at Furman University Libraries to assess their digital collections and finding aids. This endeavor aims at community-relating, improving representation of underdescribed populations, and advancing intergenerational justice. Conceived as a self-reflective tool, this assessment will help the Libraries make informed decisions on how to best incorporate inclusive practices and address archival silences. As we grow our digital collections, Special Collections & Archives, in collaboration with the Digital Collections Center, we continually seek for more inclusive and accurate ways to describe our content and to amplify silent archival voices that have contributed to the greater history of Furman.

Efforts are underway to conduct a DEI Audit of our digital collections and finding aids, an endeavor that allows us to improve discoverability of and access to our digital historical records, enhance our descriptive practices, and facilitate critical dialogues among our diverse communities. To read more on the steps the DEI Audit Team has taken to develop this assessment, check out our first and second parts of our blog series.

At this stage, we have developed and piloted DEI Audit Survey, a reflection tool that evaluates the degree to which the content of a collection encourages the pursuit of diversity, inclusion, and equity embodied by the Furman Advantage. We are using this survey to facilitate outreach and advocacy for digital collection efforts and to generate new venues for campus communities to engage in self-reflection. Given the participatory nature of this project, it is critical that we continually consult our diverse communities throughout the different stages of this assessment.

This survey, which was recently validated by students, faculty, and staff, includes questions like:

  • Does this collection promote a sense of belonging?
  • Does it depict all individuals in fair and respectful ways?
  • Does it encourage users to engage in conversations that advance social justice?


Our position, both as Special Collections and Archives and the Digital Collections Center, is to support this growing institutional commitment to repair historical harms and narratives through collections that promote a shared history and a shared remembrance of the past. This audit is one of the many actions we are taking to continue embracing inclusive excellence beliefs and values. Through this assessment, we can further remove obstacles to access and use of our digital collections, promote meaningful dialogues that inform our descriptive practices, make visible and share our complex (and oftentimes, silent) experiences, and foster a sense of intergenerational justice.

These areas can help us identify a variety of lexicon categories and maintain a focused approach to planning our audit. Groupings are broad in nature, meaning, that the concepts within each realm are not meant to be mutually inclusive or exclusive. Once recommendations made by the audit team are presented and approved, we can make better decisions on how to engage in “conscious editing” of records that were reviewed and flagged during this first phase.

1. Punzalan, R. L., & Caswell, M. (2016). Critical directions for archival approaches to social justice. The Library Quarterly, 86(1), 25-42.

Conducting an audit and building this toolkit can be mutually beneficial to FU students, faculty, and staff, and community members It is a process that will help us:

  • improve discoverability and access to FU’s digital historical records that represent a more inclusive context of our institution's history
  • engage the community by creating new venues of reflection to discuss difficult subjects
  • inform our approaches to enhancing affective responses and experiences among users as they discover and make meaning of FU’s racial past, while not getting harmed during the process
  • spark dialogues among users about what’s happening as we process records (e.g., why don’t we see details about certain individuals appearing in this set of photographs?)
  • promote the sharing of diverse experiences and perspectives at FU facilitate outreach and advocacy for our digital collection building efforts
  • cultivate “radical collaboration” with members of Furman Libraries, students, faculty, and other Furman University communities
  • integrate iterative editing/corrective descriptive practices into internal workflows and procedures inform DEI auditing practices/procedures at other FU units and at other institutions.